What Is Green/Clean/Sustainable/Eco Friendly Energy, & What Are The Different Types/Sources?

What Is Green/Clean/Sustainable/Eco Friendly Energy, & What Are The Different Green Energy Types/Sources

Green energy can sometimes get called renewable energy, and vice versa.

But, what some people don’t know is that renewable energy actually falls under the broader category of green/clean/sustainable/eco friendly energy.

In this short guide, we outline what green energy is, and what the different types/sources are.

 

Summary – What Is Green Energy, & What Are The Different Types

  • Green energy, which might also be referred to as clean, sustainable or eco friendly energy, doesn’t have one single official definition
  • One way to describe is though, is, energy that comes from natural resources, is renewable (and not finite or scarce), is sustainable to use in the long term, has minimal negative impact of the environment, and has zero waste. How ‘green’ an energy source is can be determined by the operation stage of the energy process, or even better – over the entire lifecycle of the energy process
  • We can see that renewable energy fits under this broader description of clean energy. Renewable energy comes from natural resources and can be replenished quickly ( within the lifespan of humans or muck quicker) 
  • Fossil fuels are not renewable because they take thousands or millions of years to regenerate, making them finite in supply (we have not assessed fossil fuels in the guide below as a result)
  • Renewable energy isn’t always green energy, but the greenest energy always tends to be renewable
  • Green energy includes all of the renewable energy sources, and nuclear energy (because of it’s zero emission operation stage)
  • Wind and solar are probably the greenest energy sources over the entire lifecycle when compared to other green energy sources

*Note – hydrogen is not yet produced at scale by renewable energy (it is mainly being produced by fossil fuels and natural gas), so we have omitted it from this guide.

 

What Exactly Makes An Energy Source Green/Clean/Sustainable/Eco Friendly?

There are several things that can be looked for or assessed across the entire lifecycle of the energy process:

  • if it comes from renewable, or finite resources (uranium is finite at the moment)
  • whether it is mined or not (uranium is mined)
  • whether it is grown and requires inputs such as water and other inputs to grow the resource that is to be used for energy (some bioenergy is)
  • whether the operation stage involves the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, or the release of air pollution contaminants (renewables and nuclear usually don’t, but bioenergy might)
  • whether the operation stage uses a lot of water or other important resources (nuclear reactors can use water for cooling purposes)
  • whether there is any other environmental damage or pollution such as water pollution at any stage throughout the energy process (renewables have a land footprint for their setup, and have carbon footprints still for the manufacture of equipment such as solar panels and wind generators. A little known fact is that solar panels actually include plastic as a material. Once renewable equipment reaches the end of it’s lifespan, it needs to either be recycled or sent to land fill. Bioenergy can cause a range of land clearing, resource usage, environmental pollution, emissions, and waste issues in some forms)
  • whether there is waste or by-products that are either harmful, or need to be managed/treated (nuclear has nuclear waste, whilst renewables tend to have no waste products apart from some forms of bioenergy)
  • how efficient the production stage is at turning energy from the resource into electricity (renewables all tend to be more efficient at turning their natural resources into electricity compared to fossil fuels. Biomass also isn’t as efficient as the other renewable energy sources)
  • the use of important resources like water throughout the energy process (nuclear reactors use a lot of water, and bioenergy can use water for crops or for refining biofuels)

In this guide, we look at the efficiency of the different energy sources, as well as their environmental impact.

 

What Are The Different Types/Sources Of Green Energy?

Fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, are not green energy.

The renewable energy sources are seen as green -you can read this guide for a list with examples and explanations of the different types of renewable energy sources.

The short list is:

  • Solar (PV – photovoltaic, and thermal)
  • Wind (onshore, and offshore)
  • Hydropower (run-of-river, storage, pumped-storage)
  • Geothermal (steam, and water)
  • Wave
  • Tidal
  • Biomass/Bioenergy/Biofuel

Renewable resources don’t need to be mined, have no or few emissions and air pollution during the operation stage, and produce no or few waste products.

Bioenergy is the one asterisk among this group as it can be grown from crops or come from waste products from other sectors, and can produce emissions and air contaminants when burnt or refined. It can also produce waste products like ash.

In addition to these sources, nuclear can probably also be considered a clean source of energy because it is clean during the operation stage – emitting only a clean vapor (but, uranium does require mining and is finite, and nuclear produces a radioactive waste that needs to be disposed of properly and takes many years break down safely).

 

Consider The Consumer Stage For Sustainable Energy As Well

Above, we were mainly talking about the production of green energy sources.

Some descriptions extend sustainable energy in particular out to include the consumption and use of this energy in the form of electricity as well e.g. for heating and cooling, or for electric vehicles.

Making sure that these consumer stage systems are energy efficient is one extra way that energy use can be sustainable, in addition to the sustainable production of energy.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels-vs-nuclear-comparison-guide/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-renewable-alternative-energy-now-into-the-future/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-green-energy-the-difference-between-renewable-energy-clean-green-sustainable-eco-friendly-energy/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-types-of-renewable-energy-sources-with-examples/

Renewable Energy vs Green Energy: The Difference Between Renewable Energy, & Clean/Green/Sustainable/Eco Friendly Energy

Renewable Energy vs Green Energy: The Difference Between Renewable Energy, & Clean/Green/Sustainable/Eco Friendly Energy

Renewable energy and green energy are sometimes confused as the same thing, but, it’s important to identify that they are not.

You can have a renewable energy source that isn’t green, and vice versa.

We’ve made this guide very short, but we point out the important differences between the two – along with some examples.

 

Summary – Renewable Energy vs Green Energy

  • Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from a natural resource, and regenerates in a short period of time (and doesn’t deplete easily), or within a human lifetime (as opposed to fossil fuels for example that take thousands and millions of years to form). Renewable energy is not finite like fossil fuels
  • Green energy doesn’t have one single definition, but it can also be described as clean, sustainable or eco friendly energy. A good way to define green energy might be an energy source that has a minimal impact on the environment and its resources over the lifecycle of the energy process, or specifically during operation and other stages of the energy process
  • It’s easy to see how there can be natural energy sources that renew quickly, but when looking across their entire lifecycle, may require resources to make, may emit air pollution and emissions in use, and may have waste products after use

 

Examples Of Renewable Energy Sources

You can read this guide for a list with examples and explanations of the different types of renewable energy sources.

The short list is:

  • Solar (PV – photovoltaic, and thermal)
  • Wind (onshore, and offshore)
  • Hydropower (run-of-river, storage, pumped-storage)
  • Geothermal (steam, and water)
  • Wave
  • Tidal
  • Biomass/Bioenergy/Biofuel

 

Examples Of Green/Clean/Sustainable/Eco Friendly Energy Sources

What is classified as a green energy source is more subjective. 

But, in addition to renewable energy sources, nuclear may be seen as a green energy source as well – at least in operation (nuclear reactors have essentially no air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions while in operation). Having to mine uranium, and radioactive active waste as a by product though do take away from how green nuclear is as an energy source over it’s full lifecycle.

Fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil are not seen as green or renewable energy sources. Coal especially is highly polluting and emits carbon dioxide. Natural gas tends to be the cleanest of the 3 fossil fuel energy sources.

An interesting guide to read is this one comparing renewable energy sources vs fossil fuels vs nuclear across a range of aspects.

 

An Example Of A Renewable Energy Source That Isn’t Always Green 

Bioenergy and biofuel from biomass are a good examples.

Bioenergy comes in different forms, and is produced differently, as well as used for different things – so, not all bioenergy can be categorised under the same labels. This is especially true in the case of conventional vs modern bioenergy technology.

But, it usually comes from specially grown biomass crops, or from waste from various sectors.

In the case of crops grown for bioenergy or biofuels, it would be fair to say that these energy sources are not as green as other sources like wind and solar if there are issues like:

Other resources on the questionable eco friendliness or green-ness of biomass, bioenergy and biofuels are:

  • http://www.ecoinvestor.com.au/Articles/Producing-Eco-Friendly-Bioenergy.htm
  • https://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/news/why-bioenergy-actually-bad-our-planet
  • https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/29/biofuels-are-not-the-green-alternative-to-fossil-fuels-they-are-sold-as

 

An Example Of A Green Energy Source That Isn’t Renewable

Nuclear, and to a lesser extent bioenergy.

Nuclear is clean whilst in operation, but uranium isn’t a renewable resource yet. There is research being done of different types of reactors that would allow us to get more energy from the same amount of uranium, and also on how we can extract uranium from saltwater in a cost effective way at scale – and although this would make uranium incredibly abundant, neither method makes uranium technically renewable.

Bioenergy you could argue is renewable, but, it still takes far more time to grow crops or trees than it takes to instantaneously get energy from the sun or wind. You could also argue that resources required to produce bioenergy, even from waste products of other processes, could eventually become finite if critical resources like water start becoming scarce, or the environment starts to deplete and deteriorate to a critical extent.

 

What Energy Sources Are Renewable & Green?

Two energy sources that might best fit this description that are widely used today are solar PV energy, and wind energy.

Both use renewable sources of energy in the sun’s radiation, and the wind.

And, both have essentially no emissions or pollution whilst in use, and no waste product.

These sources aren’t without their cons though – as power density and variability can be just two of the drawbacks to solar and wind energy (they usually need a baseload backup energy source like some type of fossil fuel or nuclear).

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-types-of-renewable-energy-sources-with-examples/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels-vs-nuclear-comparison-guide/

3. http://www.ecoinvestor.com.au/Articles/Producing-Eco-Friendly-Bioenergy.htm

4. https://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/news/why-bioenergy-actually-bad-our-planet

5. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/29/biofuels-are-not-the-green-alternative-to-fossil-fuels-they-are-sold-as

The Different Types Of Renewable Energy Sources (With Examples)

The Different Types Of Renewable Energy Sources (With Examples)

This is a short guide outlining the different types of renewable energy sources, with examples of each.

 

Summary – The Different Types Of Renewable Energy Sources

  • The different types of renewable energy are:
  • Solar (PV – photovoltaic, and thermal)
  • Wind (onshore, and offshore)
  • Hydropower (run-of-river, storage, pumped-storage)
  • Geothermal (steam, and water)
  • Wave
  • Tidal
  • Biomass/Bioenergy/Biofuel

 

  • Some other notes of renewable energies are:
  • China is the main leader right now across many renewable energy investment, production and consumption statistics
  • Hydropower is the dominant source of renewable energy right now that we get electricity from (around 50% of renewable energy
  • Wind and solar are receiving majority of the investment and growth of all the renewables over the period of the last decade or so
  • In the US, bioenergy is rapidly growing over the short term future
  • There is a difference between renewable, and clean/eco friendly energy. Renewable means the energy comes from a natural source and can be replenished quickly, or within a human lifespan, without being depleted. Renewable doesn’t necessarily mean the energy is clean/eco friendly though. Clean energies look at the full environmental and sustainable impact of the energy throughout it’s entire life cycle. For example, some types of bioenergy might be renewable in some ways, but may not be an eco friendly type of energy because it requires land, water, sometimes fertilizer and pesticides, and has emissions/pollution, or waste to consider. Compare this to solar or wind energy for example that requires no resource input (apart from land) and produces no waste product or air pollution while in operation. Another example is nuclear which is not renewable, but is relatively clean while in operation (apart from the radioactive waste generated). So, each energy source has its own set up pros and cons.

 

Solar (PV – photovoltaic, and thermal)

PV

  • Uses solar technology (usually solar panels) to convert solar radiation into DC electricity with semiconductors.

– studentenergy.org

 

  • [Some of the biggest operational solar PV setups are in China and India]

– solarinsure.com

 

Thermal

  • Solar thermal technologies capture the heat energy from the sun and use it for heating and/or the production of electricity. This is different from photovoltaic solar panels, which directly convert the sun’s radiation to electricity

– studentenergy.org

 

  • [Some of the biggest operational solar thermal setups are in Morocco, the US and Spain]

– wikipedia.org

 

Wind (onshore, and offshore)

Wind energy uses horizontal or vertical axis wind turbines/wind generators to turn mechanical energy from wind into electricity.

 

Onshore

Wind energy farms that are built on main land, either more centrally or in very small set ups remotely.

 

  • [The US and China have some of the largest operational onshore wind farms]

– wikipedia.org

 

Offshore

Wind energy set up off the main land – usually on bodies of water, or on the ocean. They are usually more expensive to set up than onshore wind farms.

 

  • [Some of the biggest operational offshore wind setups are in the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and China]

– wikipedia.org

 

Hydropower

Hydropower uses a turbine and electricity generator to turn mechanical energy from running water (that naturally flows, or is mechanically pumped from a water storage area), into electricity.

Hydropower plants can often incorporate several or all of the below features and types of hydropower i.e. a run-of-river setup can also include a storage area and mechanical pumping.

 

Run-Of-River

  • channels a running water source like a river to a turbine and hydropower plant
  • as long as the river is running, it provides a continuous supply of electricity (base load)
  • [traditionally, it has little or no water storage area – instead, relying on running water from the water source]

– hydropower.org

 

Storage

  • water is stored in a dam or reservoir
  • water is released into a turbine that turns and activates a generator
  • can run consistently and provide baseload power, or can be be shut down and turned on again for temporary power to meet peak load demands
  • can operate independently of an inflow of water for weeks and months

– hydropower.org

 

Pumped-Storage

  • has both a higher level reservoir of water, and a lower level one
  • water can be pumped to the higher level reservoir, and can then be released back down to the lower level (which usually doesn’t require pumping, and pushes water through a turbine)
  • can provide both peak demand energy supply, and low demand energy supply

– hydropower.org

 

The Three Gorges Dam in Hubei, China, and the Itaipu Dam in Brazil/Paraguay are two of the largest hydroelectricity plants in the world. These plants can have varying electricity outputs because of variances in water availability and flow (wikipedia.org).

 

Geothermal

Geothermal energy makes use of heat energy – either very hot steam, or very hot water (high-temperatures of usually 300°F to 700°F) that comes from beneath the Earth’s surface – to power a turbine that creates electricity.

Dry steam wells or hot water wells are usually used, and they can be drilled by humans into the Earth.

There are three types of geothermal plants that use different systems for either vapor or water:

  • Dry steam (use steam)
  • Flash steam (takes high pressure water that is converted to steam)
  • Binary cycle plants (transfer the heat from geothermal hot water to another liquid. The heat causes the second liquid to turn to steam)

– eia.gov, and wikipedia.org

 

Globally, geothermal power plants are widespread. The US has the largest installed geothermal power plant right now – The Geysers, located north of San Francisco. Italy, Mexico, the Philippines and Iceland also have some large geothermal power plants (wikipedia.org, and worldatlas.com) 

 

Wave

Uses energy from waves (created when wind blows across the surface of water) in the ocean, that act upon wave energy devices (in an optimised array), to produce electricity.

Not widely commercially used yet due to the cost and a range of other problems for producing power at scale.

Some notable wave farm projects have been designed, and some built, in the UK, Australia, the US and Portugal (wikipedia.org)

 

Tidal

Uses energy from the ocean’s tide motions and currents (caused by the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon) to produce electricity via a tidal generator.

Like wave energy, tidal energy hasn’t been used to produce energy at scale because of cost issues. Tidal energy also suffers from a lack of suitable sites, but technological breakthroughs in the future could change that.

A number of tidal tests, small projects and schemes have been conducted, built and designed worldwide (wikipedia.org).

 

Biomass/Bioenergy/Biofuel

Biomass is organic renewable matter like wood, or other plant based material (but technically includes living things like animals as well).

It usually comes from the growing of crops, or from waste from various sectors.

Biomass is used to generate heat or electricity by burning it directly, and biofuel type products for transport via conversion.

Bioenergy includes both traditional and modern bioenergy.

  • … Traditional use refers to the combustion of biomass in such forms as wood, animal waste and traditional charcoal. Modern bioenergy technologies include liquid biofuels produced from bagasse and other plants; bio-refineries; biogas produced through anaerobic digestion of residues; wood pellet heating systems; and other technologies.

– irena.org

Brazil is the leader in liquid biofuels and has the largest fleet of flexible-fuel vehicles (irena.org)

However, the US is also expected to increase their modern bioenergy capacity in the short term future (iea.org)

A few good resources on bioenergy are:

  • https://www.irena.org/bioenergy
  • https://www.eesi.org/topics/bioenergy-biofuels-biomass/description
  • https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=biomass_environment

 

Renewable Energy Investment, Installed Capacity, Production, & Consumption Worldwide, By Country & By Energy Source

 

Pros & Cons Of The Different Renewable Energy Sources

 

Sources

1. https://www.studentenergy.org/topics/solar-pv

2. https://www.studentenergy.org/topics/solar-thermal

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_thermal_power_stations#Largest_plants_by_technology

4. https://www.solarinsure.com/largest-solar-power-plants

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_thermal_power_stations#Largest_plants_by_technology

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-renewable-alternative-energy-now-into-the-future/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/countries-that-invest-the-most-in-renewable-energy-what-they-invest-in/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/installed-capacity-production-consumption-of-renewable-energy-worldwide-by-country-by-source/

9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_onshore_wind_farms

10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_offshore_wind_farms

11. https://www.hydropower.org/types-of-hydropower

12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_hydroelectric_power_stations

13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy#Types

14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_power

15. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=geothermal_power_plants

16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_geothermal_power_stations

17. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/largest-geothermal-power-plants-in-the-world.html

18. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_power#Wave_farms

19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_power

20. https://www.irena.org/bioenergy

21. https://www.eesi.org/topics/bioenergy-biofuels-biomass/description

22. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=biomass_environment

23. https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2018/october/modern-bioenergy-leads-the-growth-of-all-renewables-to-2023-according-to-latest-.html

24. https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/

Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption Of Renewable Energy Worldwide, By Country, & By Source

Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption Of Renewable Energy Worldwide, By Country, & By Source

This is a short guide outlining:

  • the installed capacity of renewable energy
  • the production/generation of renewable energy
  • the consumption of renewable energy

We look at these aspects on a global, country and individual renewable energy source level.

If you want to read about investment in renewable energy separately, you can do so in this guide.

 

Summary – Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption Of Renewable Energy In The World

  • Renewable energy can be split into installed capacity (how much energy can be generated based on installed equipment), production/generation (how much energy is actually being generated), and consumption (how much energy of what is produced is actually used – infrastructure, connection to the power grid and other factors can determine how much energy is lost and used ultimately)
  • There’s a few ways you can measure installed capacity, production and consumption of renewable energy…
  • Installed capacity as a total gigawatt or terawatt amount
  • Total production or consumption measured as total GWh produced or consumed
  • Renewable energy production or consumption expressed as % of total generation or consumption
  • Installed capacity, production or consumption by the individual renewable energy sources e.g. solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric etc.
  • Renewable energy investment is different again from installed capacity, production and consumption
  • China tends to lead all countries across most installed capacity, production and consumption/use statistics, followed by the US. It makes sense as China currently leads in terms of installed capacity of hydropower, solar PV, and wind
  • Hydropower accounts for half the total renewable energy installed capacity globally, followed by wind and solar behind it
  • Renewables make up 26% of global electricity, but only 10% of heating and cooling, and 3.3% of transport energy
  • Hydropower accounts for the most renewable energy production followed by wind, and solar
  • Modern renewables make up about 10.6% of global total renewable energy consumption
  • China, the US, Germany, India, Japan, the UK and Brazil consume the most renewable energy
  • Hydropower is the most consumed renewable energy source, followed by wind and solar
  • Cities use a higher percentage of renewable electricity than countries. Already, there are at least 100 cities around the world using between 90 and 100 percent renewable electricity.
  • As we note in our guide on renewable energy investment, as of 2018, fossil fuel subsidies can still exceed renewable investment in a given year, and CO2 levels and CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are still gradually increasing. So, apart from the benefits like potentially helping to reduce air pollution that renewables provide, if we want to address climate change and global warming as well – we probably aren’t in a position to be doing that right now. Ideally clean electricity and energy consumption will need to keep increasing, fossil fuel subsidies and consumption will need to keep decreasing, and CO2 levels will need to keep reducing. Renewables are slowly starting to make up a bigger % of electricity consumption, but that % needs to keep increasing, and heating and cooling as well as transport are primarily fossil fuel dominated right now (these sectors need to increasingly be powered by renewables or become more efficient over time to become cleaner).
  • As vox.com notes: “As of 2017, fossil fuels were still providing about 80 percent of humanity’s energy, which is roughly what they’ve been providing for decades. Excluding traditional biomass … you’re left with about 13 percent plausibly climate-friendly energy … That 13 percent needs to get to 100 percent, or close to it, by 2050.”

*Note – the phrase ‘energy’ tends to include energy for heating and cooling, and transport, where as the phrase ‘electricity’ tends to be be energy just in the electricity sector itself. 

 

Global Total Installed Capacity Of Renewable Energy

  • Some 181 GW of new renewables capacity was installed in 2018; it now makes up more than one-third of global installed power capacity. 
  • … In 2018, the world had 1246GW of renewable power capacity [this number appears to omit hydropower though]

– vox.com

 

  • At the end of 2018, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 2,351 GW
  • Hydropower accounts for the largest share with an installed capacity of 1 172 GW – around half of the total. Wind and solar energy account for most of the remainder with capacities of 564 GW and 480 GW respectively. Other renewables included 121 GW of bioenergy, 13 GW of geothermal energy and 500 MW of marine energy (tide, wave and ocean energy).

– irena.org

 

  • As of 2015 worldwide, more than half of all new electricity capacity installed was renewable.

– wikipedia.org

 

Countries With The Highest Installed Capacity Of Renewable Energy

In 2018, countries and groups of countries with the highest installed capacities of renewable power were:

  • China – 404GW
  • EU-28 – 339GW
  • US – 180GW
  • Germany – 113GW
  • India – 78GW
  • Japan – 64GW
  • UK – 42GW

– vox.com

These %’s appear to omit hydropower though.

 

Renewable energy capacity at the end of 2016:

  • China – 545.25GW
  • US – 214.7GW
  • Brazil – 122.9GW
  • Germany – 105.8GW
  • Canada – 96.6GW
  • India – 90.6GW

– nsenergybusiness.com

 

Global Installed Capacity Of Renewable Energy By Energy Source

At the end of 2018, installed capacity by renewable energy source worldwide was:

  • Hydroelectricity – 50% (1172GW)
  • Wind – 24%
  • Solar – 20%
  • Others – 6%

– irena.org

Recently, wind and solar have seen the biggest increases/growth in installed capacity. You can view more growth statistics for renewable energy in the Irena.org resource.

 

Global Renewable Energy Production For Total Energy

  • Where renewables are 26 percent of global electricity, they represent less than 10 percent (renewable electricity less than 2 percent) of heating and cooling and just 3.3 percent (renewable electricity only 0.3 percent) of transportation energy
  • Heating and cooling, at 51 percent of global energy use, mostly run on natural gas and oil.
  • Transportation, at 32 percent of global energy use, mostly runs on gasoline and diesel.

– vox.com

 

Global Renewable Energy Production For Electricity

  • [As of 2018, renewable energy makes up 26.2% of global electricity produced] 

– vox.com

 

Global Renewable Energy Production By Energy Source 

Of the above 26.2% global electricity production figure, the different renewable energy sources make up these %’s (that add up to 26.2%):

  • Hydropower – 15.8%
  • Wind – 5.5%
  • Solar PV – 2.4%
  • Bio Power – 2.2%
  • Geothermal, CSP & Ocean Power – 0.4%

– vox.com

 

Which Renewable Energy Source Produces The Most Energy Worldwide?

From the above numbers, hydropower produces far more energy via electricity than any other renewable source right now (as of the latest 2018 figures).

 

Global Total Renewable Energy Consumption 

At the end of 2017, estimated renewable share of total final energy consumption was:

  • Fossil Fuels – 79.7%
  • Modern Renewables – 10.6%
  • Traditional Biomass – 7.5%
  • Nuclear – 2.2%

– vox.com

 

  • Globally, the world produced approximately 5.9 TWh of modern renewable energy in 2016. This represents a 5 to 6-fold increase since the 1960s.

– ourworldindata.org

 

Countries That Consume The Most Renewable Energy 

Leading countries based on renewable energy consumption in 2018 (in million metric tons of oil equivalent)

  • China – 143.5
  • US – 103.8
  • Germany – 47.3
  • India – 27.5
  • Japan – 25.4
  • UK – 23.9
  • Brazil – 23.6
  • Spain – 16
  • Italy – 14.9
  • France – 10.6
  • Canada – 10.3
  • Turkey – 8.5
  • Australia – 7.2
  • Sweden – 6.6
  • South Korea – 5

– statista.com

 

  • Between 2010 and 2014, renewable energy consumption of the top countries has effectively doubled from 168 million tons to 316 million tons of oil equivalent

– worldatlas.com

 

Global Renewable Energy Consumption By Energy Source

At the end of 2016, Total renewable energy consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh) per year, was:

  • Hydropower – 4,022.94TWh
  • Wind – 959.53TWh
  • Solar – 333.05TWh
  • Other renewables – 561.67TWh

– ourworldindata.org

 

Which Renewable Energy Source Is Used The Most Worldwide?

From the above figures in 2016, hydropower is used the most by far.

 

Which Country Uses The Most Hydropower Energy?

China.

2016 figures for hydropower consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), were:

  • China (1162.77TWh)
  • Canada (388.24 TWh)
  • US
  • India
  • Sweden
  • France
  • Chile (19.52TWh)

– ourworldindata.org

 

Which Country Uses The Most Wind Energy?

China.

2016 figures for wind energy consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), were:

  • China (241 TWh)
  • US (228 TWh)
  • India
  • UK
  • Brazil
  • Canada 
  • Argentina (0.55 TWh)

– ourworldindata.org

 

Which Country Uses The Most Solar Energy?

China leads in both installed solar PV energy capacity, and solar PV energy consumption.

2016 figures for solar PV energy consumption, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), were:

  • China (66.2 TWh)
  • US (56.79 TWh)
  • India
  • South Africa
  • Canada
  • Brazil (0.09TW)

– ourworldindata.org

 

Which Country Produces The Most Biofuel? (Bioethanol & Biodiesel)

The US.

Total biofuel production, measured in terawatt-hours (TWh), in 2016, was:

  • United States (9572.24 TWh)
  • Brazil
  • Spain 
  • South Korea (47.03 TWh)

– ourworldindata.org

 

A Note About Cities vs Countries For Renewable Energy

  • [Cities] use a higher percentage of renewable electricity than countries. Already, there are at least 100 cities around the world using between 90 and 100 percent renewable electricity.

– vox.com

 

What Impact Are Renewables Having On Carbon Dioxide Levels?

Through until 2018 and 2019, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, and CO2 levels in parts per million are still on the rise:

  • https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/new-global-co2-emissions-numbers-are-they-re-not-good (shows a graph of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels year to year)
  • https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/ (shows a graph of updated CO2 ppm in the atmosphere)

 

Short Term Forecast For Future Of Renewables

Over the next few years until around 2023, modern bioenergy is expected to grow.

Modern bioenergy technologies include liquid biofuels produced from bagasse and other plants; bio-refineries; biogas produced through anaerobic digestion of residues; wood pellet heating systems; and other technologies.

You can read more about the short term future for renewables at:

  • https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/
  • https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2018/october/modern-bioenergy-leads-the-growth-of-all-renewables-to-2023-according-to-latest-.html

 

Longer Term Forecast For Future Of Renewables

You can read general energy outlooks for the United States and China in these guides, which includes a general forecast for renewables too:

 

Sources

1. https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/new-global-co2-emissions-numbers-are-they-re-not-good

2. https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

3. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/6/18/18681591/renewable-energy-china-solar-pv-jobs

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/countries-that-invest-the-most-in-renewable-energy-what-they-invest-in/

5. https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2019/Mar/RE_capacity_highlights_2019.pdf?la=en&hash=BA9D38354390B001DC0CC9BE03EEE559C280013F&hash=BA9D38354390B001DC0CC9BE03EEE559C280013F

6. https://ourworldindata.org/renewable-energy#modern-renewable-energy-consumption-by-source

7. https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/

8. https://irena.org/publications/2018/Jul/Renewable-Energy-Statistics-2018

9. https://www.iea.org/wei2018/

10. https://www.irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2019/Apr/Renewable-Energy-Now-Accounts-for-a-Third-of-Global-Power-Capacity

11. https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2018/october/modern-bioenergy-leads-the-growth-of-all-renewables-to-2023-according-to-latest-.html

12. https://www.irena.org/bioenergy

13. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/future-of-energy-energy-outlook-in-the-united-states/

14. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/future-of-energy-in-china-energy-outlook/

15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production_from_renewable_sources

16. https://www.statista.com/statistics/237090/renewable-energy-consumption-of-the-top-15-countries/

17. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-15-countries-using-renewable-energy.html

18. https://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/top-renewable-energy-producing-countries/

Countries That Invest The Most In Renewable Energy (& What They Invest In)

Countries That Invest The Most In Renewable Energy (& What They Invest In)

This is a very short guide about the countries that invest the most in renewable energy technology.

We’ve also outlined what renewable energy technology they have invested in the most.

 

Summary – Investment In Renewables By Country

  • Since 2004, there has been a significant increase in the investment in renewables worldwide overall up until 2010 (from 47 billion USD to just under 250 billion)
  • 2010 up to 2017 is still trending up overall, but investment can be up and down annually, and the increase is slower comparatively (from 237 billion USD in 2010, to just over 300 billion in 2017)
  • China is the leading country (by total USD) to invest in renewable energy. It is by a wide margin too – more than double the second place United States, and in some cases triple, by latest figures (up to 2017)
  • Chile, South Africa, China, Japan and the UK lead investment in 2015 when considered as % of GDP 
  • Most countries in the world invest less than 1% of their GDP right now in renewables
  • Wind and solar are the leading renewable energy sources that these countries are 
  • Solar PV was one renewable energy technology that had record levels of investment in 2017

*Note – investment refers to equipment and infrastructure. It doesn’t generally include investment costs in research and development. Also note, investment in renewable energy doesn’t always equal to how much renewable energy makes up the energy mix of that country. Installed equipment may or may not be pushing all available power into the main power grid depending on transmission technology and infrastructure (plus other factors like exporting renewable energy).

 

Countries & Regions That Invest The Most Total Money In Renewable Energy Technology

These countries and regions of the world lead in terms of total investment of USD in renewable technology in 2015:

  • China – 102.9 Billion
  • Europe – 48.76 Billion
  • Asia & Oceania (exc. China and India) – 47.56 Billion
  • United States – 44.11 Billion 
  • Americas (exc. US and Brazil) – 12.83 Billion
  • Middle East & Africa – 12.47 Billion
  • India – 10.16 Billion
  • Brazil – 7.14 Billion

– ourworldindata.org

 

  • China became the leading destination for renewable energy investment in 2017, accounting for $126.6 billion or 45 percent of global investment

– chinadaily.com.cn

 

The top 10 countries in total renewable energy investment in 2017 were:

  • China – 126.6 Billion
  • United States – 40.5 Billion
  • Japan – 10.4 Billion
  • India – 10.9 Billion
  • Germany – 10.4 Billion
  • Australia – 8.5 Billion
  • UK – 7.6 Billion
  • Brazil – 6 Billion 
  • Mexico – 6 Billion
  • Sweden – 3.7 Billion 

– chinadaily.com.cn

 

Countries That Invest The Most In Renewable Energy/Technology As A % Of GDP

Renewable energy investment in terms of % of GDP in 2015 was:

  • Chile – 1.4%
  • South Africa – 1.4%
  • China – 0.9%
  • Japan – 0.8%
  • UK – 0.8%
  • India – 0.5%
  • Brazil – 0.4%
  • Germany – 0.3%
  • Mexico – 0.3%
  • United States – 0.2% 

– ourworldindata.org

 

What Renewable Energy Sources/Technology Are Countries Investing In?

Investment in renewable technology by renewable source, in 2016, was:

  • Solar – 113.7 Billion USD
  • Wind – 112.5 Billion
  • Biomass & Waste To Energy – 6.8 Billion
  • Liquid Biofuels – 2.2 Billion
  • Small Hydro – 3.5 Billion
  • Geothermal – 2.7 Billion

* Large hydro isn’t included in these figures. Biomass and bioenergy investment has declined over the last decade.

– ourworldindata.org

 

Trends In Renewable Energy Investment Worldwide

From 2004 to 2010, investment in renewables skyrocketed. 2010 to 2017 has seen an overall increasing trend, but the growth hasn’t been as steep, with investment going up and down year to year.

 

  • In 2004, the world invested 47 billion USD [in renewables]. By 2015, this had increased to 286 billion USD

– ourworldindata.org

 

  • … renewable power investment declined in 2017 by 7%, despite record levels of spending on solar PV

– iea.org

 

  • Global investment in renewable energy rose two percent to $279.8 billion in 2017, a UN-backed report 

– chinadaily.com.cn

 

There is a good breakdown of the overall investment picture of renewables worldwide up until 2017, and figures on research and development spendage at https://www.iea.org/wei2018/

There’s also a good 2018 breakdown at https://about.bnef.com/blog/clean-energy-investment-exceeded-300-billion-2018/

 

Other Notes On Renewable Energy Investment

  • [declining capital and equipment cost can lead to a dip in investment dollars year to year i.e. it becomes cheaper to invest]
  • [policy change in China led to] Chinese solar investment plung[ing] 53% to $40.4 billion in 2018]
  • [Some of the world leaders in offshore wind investment are the UK, Germany and soon China]
  • [expiring tax credit incentives can lead to renewable investments being higher one year than the next]

– about.bnef.com

 

Investment In Renewables vs Subsidies For Fossil Fuels

  • Globally, subsidies to fossil fuels were up 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year
  • … total investment in renewable energy (not including hydropower) was $288.9 billion in 2018 — less than fossil fuel subsidies and an 11 percent decrease from 2017

– vox.com

 

What Impact Are Renewables Having On Carbon Dioxide Levels?

Through until 2018 and 2019, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, and CO2 levels in parts per million are still on the rise:

  • https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/new-global-co2-emissions-numbers-are-they-re-not-good (shows a graph of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels year to year)
  • https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/ (shows a graph of updated CO2 ppm in the atmosphere)

 

Between fossil fuel subsidies, renewables investment and CO2 levels, we perhaps aren’t heading in the direction yet that we might want to be to address climate change and global warming right now.

Renewables are slowly starting to make up a bigger % of electricity, but that % needs to keep increasing, and heating and cooling as well as transport are primarily fossil fuel dominated right now (these sectors need to be powered by renewables or become more efficient over time to become cleaner).

As vox.com notes: “As of 2017, fossil fuels were still providing about 80 percent of humanity’s energy, which is roughly what they’ve been providing for decades. Excluding traditional biomass … you’re left with about 13 percent plausibly climate-friendly energy … That 13 percent needs to get to 100 percent, or close to it, by 2050.”

 

Sources

1. https://ourworldindata.org/energy-production-and-changing-energy-sources#investment-in-renewable-technologies

2. https://www.iea.org/wei2018/

3. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201805/09/WS5af2286ca3105cdcf651cbc5.html

4. https://about.bnef.com/blog/clean-energy-investment-exceeded-300-billion-2018/

5. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/6/18/18681591/renewable-energy-china-solar-pv-jobs

6. https://www.wri.org/blog/2018/12/new-global-co2-emissions-numbers-are-they-re-not-good

7. https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

Renewable Energy vs Fossil Fuels vs Nuclear: Comparison Guide

Renewable Energy vs Fossil Fuels vs Nuclear: Comparison Guide

Renewable energy, fossil fuels, and nuclear energy all fall under their own category when it comes to energy supply and consumption.

This is a comparison guide that aims to outline how each compares across various factors and aspects.

 

Summary – Renewables vs Fossil Fuels vs Nuclear Comparison

  • Renewables tend to include solar, wind, water (hydroelectric, wave, tidal), and geothermal energy. 
  • Fossil fuels tend to include coal, natural gas and oil
  • Alternative forms of energy might include nuclear, biomass and hydrogen

The comparison information below is of a general nature only. Obviously, each individual energy setup in each city in the world is going to have different factors that impact it’s individual set of features, and pros and cons. 

How technology and social, economic, environmental and other factors develop in the future will have an impact too.

 

Cost

Cost is generally what is costs to build, operate and maintain, handle waste for, and decommission an energy source.

It can be expressed as cost to produce a unit of power e.g. cost to produce 1 Megawatt of electricity from the energy source (when taking into account lifecycle costs).

It can be very difficult to get a definite number on because of different variables in different countries and states/provinces.

A few numbers and estimates on cost are:

 

The true cost of electricity is difficult to pin down. That’s because a number of inputs comprise it: the cost of fuel itself, the cost of production, as well as the cost of dealing with the damage that fuel does to the environment.

But, an estimate on the cost to produce 1 MWh of electricity from different energy sources is:

  • Natural Gas – $66/MWh
  • Hydro – $86
  • Coal – $95
  • Wind – $97
  • Geothermal – $102
  • Biomass – $113
  • Nuclear – $114
  • Petroleum – $125
  • Solar PV – $211

– hortidaily.com

 

  • The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is a measure of a power source that allows comparison of different methods of electricity generation on a consistent basis. It is an economic assessment of the average total cost to build and operate a power-generating asset over its lifetime divided by the total energy output of the asset over that lifetime. The LCOE can also be regarded as the average minimum price at which electricity must be sold in order to break-even over the lifetime of the project.
  • There can be different internal costs for energy sources such as capital costs, fuel costs, and costs of waste and insurances.

– wikipedia.org

 

Capital costs of different energy sources expressed as overnight cost per watt:

  • gas/oil combined cycle power plant – $1000/kW
  • wind – $1600/kW
  • offshore wind – $6500/kW
  • solar PV (fixed) – $1800/kW
  • solar PV (tracking)- $2000/kW
  • battery storage – $2000/kW
  • geothermal – $2800/kW
  • coal (with S02 and NOx controls)- $3500-3800/kW
  • advanced nuclear – $6000/kW
  • fuel cells – $7200/kW

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Levelized cost of electricity differs by country
  • As two examples, wind and solar PV are two of the cheaper LCOE energy sources in the UK and US
  • You can view the full set of estimates at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

 

  • Around 75% of coal production is [now] more expensive than renewables, with [a prediction for the coal] industry [to be] out-competed on cost by 2025

– theguardian.com

 

  • Fossil fuel generation today costs between $0.05 – $0.17 per kilowatt hour in G20 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Russia, Japan, India, and Germany. By 2020, however, renewables are expected to cost $0.03 – $0.10 per kilowatt hour, with the price of onshore wind power and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects expected to be as low as $0.03 per kilowatt hour by 2019.
  • Presently, offshore wind projects and solar thermal energy can still be quite costly, but they too are expected to drop in price between 2020 and 2022 — to $0.06 – $0.10 per kilowatt hour

– businessinsider.com

 

  • [the costs we see per mega watt hour when comparing coal to renewables that show coal as cheaper is usually the cost for old conventional polluting coal plants. New coal plants are usually built with modern technology and anti pollution devices and systems]
  • In 2017 [in Australia], the marginal cost of generating power from an existing coal station [old coal stations] is less than $40/MWh, while wind power is $60-70/MWh.
  • … new supercritical coal power [comes in] at around $75/MWh
  • [in the future] the weighted average cost of capital for coal is projected to be 14.9%, compared to 7.1% for renewables

– theconversation.com

 

  • Another set of data on LCOE…
  • Onshore wind has the lowest average levelized cost in this analysis at $59 per megawatt-hour, and utility-scale photovoltaic plants weren’t far behind at $79
  • By comparison, the lowest cost conventional technologies were gas combined cycle technologies, averaging $74 per megawatt-hour, and coal plants, averaging $109
  • Looking across the 16 technology types, the 10 alternative technologies cost an average $147 per megawatt-hour, $18 less than the conventional approaches

– energyinnovation.org

 

*Research and development of an energy source and associated technology can be difficult to factor into cost, but can be a significant cost. For example, renewable energy has needed a lot of

*Profitability of each energy source is generally important to consider too, and it impacts how much investment and support a particular energy source might be able to attract.

* Note that costs can come down for an energy source over time with more investment, more consumer demand (and economies of scale), and so on.

* Energy sources like coal plants and other high polluting or high emitting energy sources are starting to become more expensive as pollutant control systems are required and pollution taxes and penalties are applied.

 

Wholesale Price Of Electricity (For Consumers)

Wholesale price of electricity is price for the end consumer of the electricity, as opposed to the cost to supply the energy source/to produce a unit of electricity (when considering all ths supply costs).

Like cost, it can be difficult to assign a definite number to wholesale price because of different variables, and because costs can differ altogether, but also relatively (to other energy sources), in different countries and states/provinces.

 

  • [prices for electricity can be dependent on many factors]
  • [inefficient old gas plants can contribute to high electricity prices – like they currently do in South Australia]
  • [excess power produced by wind and solar can bring renewable electricity prices down because the ongoing cost to run and maintain these energy sources is close to zero]
  • In South Australia, from 2013 to 2018, wind and solar generation … brought wholesale prices down
  • … in the 2017–18 financial year, renewables reduced wholesale prices by an average of about 30 per cent, or about $37 per megawatt hour
  • … subsidies paid for [wind and solar] … was $11 per megawatt hour of electricity produced

– abc.net.au

 

  • [Nuclear can cost far less in places like Korea, in China and the UAE, compared to countries in the West where the cost can be twice as much … and these costs can be reflected in end consumer electricity prices or an unwillingness to have nuclear as a part of a country or states’ energy mix at all]
  • [This is due to factors like design, construction management and supply chain and workforce]

– forbes.com

 

  • [Nuclear electricity is currently priced out of the Australian electricity market because of the cost of nuclear energy]

– reneweconomy.com.au

 

* Note – although renewables can supply cheap electricity, they often need fossil fuel sources to supply energy when there is not enough sun or wind. So, this needs to be taken into account when assessing cost of renewables vs fossil fuels for whole sale electricity prices.

 

Subsidies

Subsidies are country and state/province based. 

It depends on the policy and goals of the governments in a particular region.

Some governments have large subsidies on renewable energy with a push to meet green energy and climate change targets by 2020, 2030 and 2050.

Some governments still have subsidies on coal power and other fossil fuels with an eye on economic growth and the strength of local economy.

Some governments have carbon and air contaminant penalties on energy – coal plants and other high pollution and emitting energy sources tend to be more expensive in this scenario if they are high emitters. Some have carbon credits i.e. high emitters have to buy these credits (to fund carbon sinks) for their emissions.

 

Efficiency

Energy efficiency might be defined as the % of energy input retained when converting fuel to electricity. An estimate of energy efficiency of the different energy sources might be:

  • Coal – 29% (least efficient, and retains just 29% of its original energy)
  • Oil – 31%
  • Natural Gas – 38%
  • Biomass – 52%
  • Solar – 207%
  • Nuclear – 290%
  • Hydro – 317%
  • Geothermal – 514%
  • Wind – 1164% (most efficient, and creates 1164% of its original energy inputs when converted into electricity)

– hortidaily.com

 

Vox.com also has this to note about renewables vs fossil fuel for efficiency:

  • … fossil fuel combustion is wasteful. Mining or drilling fossil fuels, transporting them, refining them, burning them, converting them to useful energy, using the energy, disposing of the waste and pollution — at every single stage of that process, there is loss. Burning fossil fuels, for electricity, heat, or transportation, inherently involves enormous levels of waste.
  • Renewable electricity, … is simpler. It involves no combustion and fewer conversions generally. Electric motors are simpler than combustion engines, with fewer moving parts, substantially lower maintenance costs, and much higher efficiency. Electrified heating and transportation sectors can be integrated into electricity grid operations, creating system efficiencies.

 

Variability

Variability refers to how much an energy supply fluctuates with the power it delivers.

  • Fossil fuels and nuclear are not variable power sources – they are consistent
  • Some renewables like solar and wind are variable because the wind isn’t always blowing, and the sun isn’t always strong or out at all (the exception to this is the use of batteries to store energy if renewable energy equipment isn’t connected into the power grid)
  • Some renewables like geothermal and hydroelectricity are relatively controllable and constant

 

Power Density

Refers to the amount of power per unit volume.

  • Fossil fuels and nuclear tend to have have good power density
  • Renewables tend to have lesser power density

 

  • power density is … the average electrical power produced in one horizontal square metre of infrastructure.
  • Because of power density, renewables can take up up to 1000 times more space than fossil fuels
  • Biomass, hydro and wind … take up the most space. Natural gas and nuclear take least
  • … while renewable energies take up more space, that space will be less polluted, and can be developed for multiple uses such as farming around the base of wind turbines

– phys.org

 

Energy Independence & Reliance

Energy independence refers to whether an energy source gives the energy consumer complete control over that energy source, or whether it makes them reliant on another state or country for that energy.

This is entirely country or state specific.

An example of energy independence is a country mining and using their own coal. Another example is a country using their own sunlight, wind or water (via a dam or large river) for solar, wind and hydroelectric energy.

Natural gas imported from Russia to China is an example of China being dependent on Russia for their natural gas supply. Another similar example is natural gas imported from Norway to the UK (which makes the UK dependent).

Ideally, a country or state diversifies their energy portfolio both by domestic vs foreign supply, and by energy source.

 

Availability 

Availability refers to whether the energy is available in a particular area, either domestically, or by being imported.

  • Fossil fuels and uranium are generally available to be mined and used everywhere, as natural gas, coal, oil and uranium can be mined domestically, or mined externally and imported
  • All renewable energy is not available domestically everywhere. For example, some regions in the world simply don’t have access to geothermal natural resources, hydroelectric natural resources, or may not have very much sunlight or wind as part of their natural climate
  • Renewables can be imported between states or countries still though – but this can be expensive as it requires the investment in new infrastructure like power transmission lines and interconnectors

Availability may also consider how economically feasible it is to mine or capture energy.

For example, new fossil fuel resources (shale gas) have been discovered in China recently, but are incredibly deep under the ground to a point where they are difficult and expensive to get to with current mining equipment.

 

Scarcity 

Scarcity refers to how much of an energy resource has been tested for, and exists.

Fossil fuels are finite – there is only a certain amount left that can be mined with current equipment.

Uranium is finite at this stage, but advancements in science and certain technologies regarding how nuclear reactors work and our ability to obtain uranium from the ocean may push uranium supplies into hundreds and thousands of years of supply in the long term (this is still a big ‘if’ at this stage).

Comparatively, renewables like solar and wind energy are are an almost infinite resource. The sun is expected to last billions more years.

 

Safety & Danger Level To Humans

Different energy sources can cause health issues and even death via air pollution. 

Greenhouse gases, and power plants accidents also have an impact on human safety in the short and long term.

 

Environmental & Wildlife Impact 

Environmental impact from energy sources can result from mining/extraction of the resource, refinement and processing, operation, and waste.

Environmental damage from operation mainly involves involve air pollution via air contaminants, greenhouse gas emissions which impact climate change and global warming. Fossil fuels, coal especially, tends to be the dirtiest fuel in terms of air pollution, and also in terms of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Mining has it’s own set of potential environmental problems such as air pollution, water pollution, land degradation, and harm to ecosystems and wildlife. Mining is mainly done for fossil fuels and uranium.

Coal produces coal ash which contain heavy metals, and in Australia, makes up up to one fifth of the total waste stream. In some places, this waste is commercialised and re-used, but it can be costly. Nuclear obviously produces radioactive waste that needs it’s own specialised treatment and management.

Renewables tend to be the cleanest energy sources environmentally throughout their entire lifecycle, but they are not 100% eco friendly (they still have some issues).

Water footprint of each energy source has to be considered – fossil fuels, especially coal and oil tend to use a lot of water in mining, refinement (for oil), and for cooling at power plants.

 

Pros & Cons

Guides on pros and cons of various energy sources can be found here:

 

Debate … Which Energy Source Is Best … Renewables, Fossil Fuels, Or Nuclear?

It’s a country and city specific answer as to which energy source is best.

Fossil fuels have built and powered out economies, and electricity, transport, commercial/industrial, and heating and cooling sectors up until now.

Nuclear is prominent in some cities and not so much others because of it’s various pros and cons.

Renewables are emerging in many countries and cities, but still have their issues in several areas.

Fossil fuels are responsible for a lot of environmental damage and are seen as the main factor in the global warming trend. But, they tend to be cheap, accessible and reliable as a power source.

Fossil fuels will likely be a bridge, along with nuclear, in the short and medium term for a long term build into economies and societies powered with cleaner and renewable energy sources.

There are many factors and variables, both now and in the future, that will determine the individual energy mix of any city or country at any point in time (social, environmental, economic, and logistical/practical).

 

Further Resources on Renewable Energy, Fossil Fuels, & Nuclear Energy

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-renewable-alternative-energy-now-into-the-future/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-fossil-fuel-energy-now-into-the-future/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-nuclear-energy-now-future/

4. https://phys.org/news/2018-08-renewable-energy-sources-space-fossil.html

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-energy-source-is-the-most-dangerous-harmful-which-is-safest/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-fossil-fuels-are-left-when-will-we-run-out/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-uranium-is-left-in-the-world-on-land-in-oceans-when-will-we-run-out/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/considerations-when-choosing-different-energy-sources-in-the-future-social-environmental-economic-practical-more/

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/impact-of-energy-electricity-production-on-the-environment/

10. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/impact-of-energy-electricity-production-on-animals-wildlife/

11. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-carbon-greenhouse-gas-each-energy-electricity-production-source-emits-carbon-footprint/

12. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-water-different-energy-electricity-production-sources-need-use-water-footprint/

13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

14. https://www.hortidaily.com/article/6011458/us-what-is-the-most-efficient-source-of-electricity/

15. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/25/coal-more-expensive-wind-solar-us-energy-study

16. https://www.businessinsider.com/renewable-energy-will-be-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-by-2020-2018-1/?r=AU&IR=T

17. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-07/study-shows-impact-wind-solar-gas-power-on-electricity-prices/10590876

18. https://theconversation.com/factcheck-qanda-is-coal-still-cheaper-than-renewables-as-an-energy-source-81263

19. https://energyinnovation.org/2015/02/07/levelized-cost-of-energy/

20. https://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-priced-out-of-australias-future-energy-equation-in-new-report-67465/

21. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2018/10/01/3-reasons-nuclear-reactors-are-more-expensive-in-the-west-hint-its-not-regulation/#c49e3195d1a5

22. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/6/18/18681591/renewable-energy-china-solar-pv-jobs

Future Of Energy In China (Energy Outlook)

Future Of Energy In China (Energy Outlook)

This is a short guide outlining what the different forecasts and estimates say the future of China’s energy mix might look like (what energy sources provide energy and electricity in the future).

 

Summary – Future Energy Outlook In China

  • At present, China’s energy and electricity mix is majority fueled by coal. In 2017, 60.4% of energy came from coal, and for electricity, that number was even higher at 64.7%. Since 2011, China has used more coal than the rest of the world combined. 
  • China is in an interesting position because they are now the biggest producer and consumer of energy worldwide, and the bigger user of coal, as well as the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. However, they are also one of the world leaders in renewable energy investment – much of which has come over the last decade
  • Despite this investment, some reports indicate a slowing renewable energy growth at least into the short term, particularly for solar, as there is now a saturated local market for solar, and there are tariff and trade challenges such and China’s trade war with the US
  • As of 2018/19, China is a major importer of energy to meet the demand of energy to continue building their economy. Even though China is trying to diversify their energy portfolio, they still do have somewhat of a dependence on other countries right now for their energy. This could play a role on China’s energy mix in the future
  • China has found large shale gas resources domestically, but at present, they are difficult or expensive to mine
  • At present, renewables make up 13.8% of total energy consumption in China, but China has committed to increasing that to 20% by 2030
  • China is one of the world leaders in Hydroelectric energy
  • It’s possible China could rely on nuclear and natural gas in the short to medium term (along with coal and oil) to bridge the gap towards renewables
  • China has good domestic supplies of coal
  • China is also one of the leaders in electric vehicle global investment
  • In the future, a large investment in new power transmission lines and infrastructure could help with more renewable energy getting to the end user instead of being lost and now entering the main power grid

A few more general notes are:

  • There’s many factors that can ultimately impact the future energy mix of any country, such as macroeconomic growth and market forces, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies … just to name a few. Social, economic, environmental and logistical pros and cons of different energy sources also have to be weighed up
  • In reality, we can look at past energy data, and current trends of energy production and consumption. We can then use modeled projections to predict what might happen with energy in the future based on different assumptions and methodologies
  • But, energy forecasts are not definitive – they are more of an educated estimate/prediction
  • Energy mixes can differ on a state or city based level, compared to the national trends as a whole – state and local governments can have some say in this
  • % of a type of energy source is different to total numbers. For example, % share of renewables might go up in 30 years, but emissions and air pollutants might not actually reduce if the same amount of fossil fuel in total are still being used (a growing population can have something to do with this for example)
  • When looking at renewables as an energy source, different types of renewables can make up different % shares e.g. solar or hydroelectric might make up more than wind for example
  • Fossil fuels, nuclear and other types of energy sources in the future might start specialising or diverging into sub-types e.g. clean coal technology vs regular coal
  • Electrification of cars (moving away from oil based fuel) and other vehicles could have a significant impact on the overall energy and electricity mix of a country

 

Forecasts & Predictions Of Energy Sources In China In The Future

  • In 2016, coal made up 62 percent of China’s energy use
  • Since 2011, China has consumed more coal than the rest of the world combined
  • China has committed to make non-fossil fuel energy 20 percent of its energy supply by 2030
  • Over the last decade, China’s investment in renewable energy and natural gas has surged. In 2017, almost half of global renewable energy investment came from China, totaling $125.9 billion. This is more than double the $53.3 billion that China invested in renewables in 2013. China is becoming the largest market in the world for renewable energy. It is estimated that 1 in every 4 gigawatts of global renewable energy will be generated by China through 2040.
  • Over saturated market, trade war with US make China’s solar future uncertain
  • China has pledged to source 10 percent of its energy demands from natural gas by 2020
  • commitment to nuclear energy and outlined plans to construct 40 additional plants by 2020

– chinapower.csis.org

There is actually a very good article on China’s current energy situation, and some considerations for the future at https://chinapower.csis.org/energy-footprint/

 

Some forecasts put the future primary energy mix at:

  • Non fossil fuels to grow to 25.5% by 2035, and 35% by 2050
  • Coal will steadily decline to 42.5% by 2035, and 33% by 2050
  • Gas will steadily increase to 15% by 2035 by 2035, and 17% by 2050
  • Oil will steadily decrease to 17% by 2035, and 15% by 2050

– eneken.ieej.or.jp

 

  • It’s expected China’s energy demand will continue into the future
  • But, the New Policies Scenario is expected to slow average energy demand – this is due to structural shifts in the economy, strong energy efficiency policies and demographic changes
  • [It’s expected] China’s growing energy needs are increasingly met by renewables, natural gas and electricity while coal demand falls back.
  • The New Policies Scenario could see installed capacity by energy technology by 2040 be: Coal 1087GW (gigawatts), Solar 738GW, Wind 593GW, Hydro 493GW, Gas 219GW, Nuclear 145GW, Bioenergy 49GW
  • … the share of coal in total generation falls from two-thirds today to less than 40% in 2040 as a result
  • China’s cumulative share of global investment in electric vehicles is at 46% at present – so China’s electric vehicle future looks strong
  • Already today, some 15% of China’s wind and solar PV generation is being curtailed because it cannot be accommodated by the existing power system … a major investment in new power transmission lines [could ease these problems]

– iea.org

 

Further forecasts and projections on China’s energy future can be found at:

  • https://www.dbs.com/aics/templatedata/article/generic/data/en/GR/082018/180820_insights_2030_energy_mix_marching_towards_a_cleaner_future.xml
  • https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/04/china-2020-and-2030-enegy-plans.html
  • https://cleantechnica.com/2018/09/27/china-proposes-75-increase-to-2030-renewable-energy-target/

 

Future Of Renewable Energy In China

  • China has committed to renewables fulfilling 20% of total energy supply by 2030, which would be roughly just over a 6% increase
  • Although China is a world leader in renewable energy investment, there are barriers to short term and long term growth, such as a saturated domestic market of some renewable energy types like solar, and changing tariffs and trade wars with the US
  • China is one of the world leaders in Hydroelectric energy
  • Although China might be willing to invest in renewable energy, there are a whole set of challenges they will face in the future transitioning away from coal as a primary energy supply
  • It’s possible China could rely on nuclear and natural gas in the short to medium term (along with coal and oil) to bridge the gap towards renewables
  • Solar and wind energy look to be the two biggest growers in China’s long term as far as renewables go

 

Sources

1. https://chinapower.csis.org/energy-footprint/

2. https://eneken.ieej.or.jp/data/8192.pdf

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-challenges-with-chinas-transition-from-coal-to-natural-gas-renewable-energy/

5. https://www.iea.org/weo/china/

6. https://www.dbs.com/aics/templatedata/article/generic/data/en/GR/082018/180820_insights_2030_energy_mix_marching_towards_a_cleaner_future.xml

7. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/04/china-2020-and-2030-enegy-plans.html

8. https://cleantechnica.com/2018/09/27/china-proposes-75-increase-to-2030-renewable-energy-target/

Future Of Energy In The UK (Energy Outlook)

Future Of Energy In The UK (Energy Outlook)

This is a short guide outlining what the different forecasts and estimates say the future of the UK’s energy mix might look like (what energy sources provide energy and electricity).

 

Summary – Energy Outlook For The Future In The UK

  • At present, the UK gets most of it’s energy and electricity from natural gas, although renewables and nuclear make up a larger % of electricity specifically, at 24.5% and 21% respectively
  • Although fossil fuels make up a large % of the UK’s energy mix right now, there has been strong interest shown on a national level to move towards lower carbon energy (by 2030 and 2050) such as nuclear, wind, solar, biomass, and carbon capture usage and storage, low carbon heat, and the use of electric vehicles
  • Already, on a good day, low carbon sources of energy like nuclear, wind and solar are making up up to 75% of the UK’s electricity supply. There have been deals agreed to shore up wind energy to supply around one third of total energy supply by 2030, and solar is looking to grow as well with competitive prices
  • Realistically though, if the UK wants to make energy more efficient and low carbon in the electricity, transport and heating sectors – they will need to have a diversified energy mix that continues to develop over time. This will most likely still include fossil fuels over the short to medium term, along with new nuclear, and the continued development of renewables
  • Variability of renewable energy, along with an increased electricity demand if more electric vehicles continue to come on the road make that last point even more realistic. This is not considering the additional step of connecting predominantly gas fed heating systems to a lower carbon energy source
  • It’s likely hundreds of billions of pounds need to be invested to make a cleaner energy mix happen
  • Some sources are very skeptical of long term renewable and nuclear energy policy and plans because of various factors
  • Strength of the economy, demand by consumers, investment in different types of energy and laws and regulations on carbon intensive energy sources and electric vs conventional combustion engine vehicles are likely to impact this. Laws, regulations and policies are also very important

A few more general notes are:

  • There’s many factors that can ultimately impact the future energy mix of any country, such as macroeconomic growth and market forces, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies … just to name a few. Social, economic, environmental and logistical pros and cons of different energy sources also have to be weighed up
  • In reality, we can look at past energy data, and current trends of energy production and consumption. We can then use modeled projections to predict what might happen with energy in the future based on different assumptions and methodologies
  • But, energy forecasts are not definitive – they are more of an educated estimate/prediction
  • Energy mixes can differ on a state or city based level, compared to the national trends as a whole – state and local governments can have some say in this
  • % of a type of energy source is different to total numbers. For example, % share of renewables might go up in 30 years, but emissions and air pollutants might not actually reduce if the same amount of fossil fuel in total are still being used (a growing population can have something to do with this for example)
  • When looking at renewables as an energy source, different types of renewables can make up different % shares e.g. solar or hydroelectric might make up more than wind for example
  • Fossil fuels, nuclear and other types of energy sources in the future might start specialising or diverging into sub-types e.g. clean coal technology vs regular coal
  • Electrification of cars (moving away from oil based fuel) and other vehicles could have a significant impact on the overall energy and electricity mix of a country

 

Forecasts & Predictions Of Energy Sources In The UK In The Future

  • [in the last 12 years, from 2006 to 2018, the UK’s electricity supply makeup has changed dramatically – coal in particular has seen a significant decrease in terms of %]
  • … the National Grid now expects to be able to operate a zero-carbon electricity system by 2025
  • … the government recently [agreed to] a major deal for offshore wind to produce one-third of the UK’s power by 2030
  • … solar prices are still decreasing in the UK
  • [In 2018 already, on days of strong wind and sun, over 75% of the UK’s electricity comes from low carbon sources like nuclear, solar and wind]
  • [it’s realistic to say that fossil fuels will still probably play a role in the short to medium term for UK energy supply because of factors like variability of renewable energy sources (on days of no wind and little sun), and because of an anticipated doubling of electricity demand in the next decade as electric vehicles increase in number on roads. Even nuclear running alongside everything else likely won’t change this]
  • [if heating systems move from natural gas to a lower carbon source – this will put more demand on the renewable energy system]
  • [As of today] more than 80% of the total UK energy supply, including electricity, land transport and heat, still comes from fossil fuels
  • Diversification and continued development of all energy sources is what the UK needs going forward
  • [Heat, transport and power are the main focuses going forward when it comes to energy – but there are many variables at play that will determine what direction the UK goes in]

– theconversation.com

 

  • The UK’s nuclear power stations will close gradually over the next decade or so, with all but one expected to stop running by 2025. Several companies have plans to build a new generation of reactors
  • [it is expected renewables] will rise as the UK aims to meet its EU target of generating 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020

– energy-uk.org.uk

 

By 2035, one scenario might be:

  • New nuclear plants should be operational by the late 2020’s
  • Offshore wind will continue to grow by the early 2020’s
  • … combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) are still on the grid for flexibility and balance
  • … [there could be a] potential tripling of installed solar and wind in the system in 2035 (50-77GW) compared to 2018’s 27GW, with local areas providing close to half of the country’s power generation capacity (34-45%)
  • … [roughly another] £170 billion [may need to be invested in UK energy to meet decarbonisation and security of supply targets by 2030]
  • [By 2050, every heating source will need to be decarbonised … but how this is achieved is not yet clear]
  • By 2030 [electric vehicles] may represent over half of all new vehicle sales, and account for more than one-third of cars and vans on the road (approximately 10 million). [But, there are challenges to this … such as finding the amount of electricity to support these EVs]

– energy-uk.org.uk

 

  • there’s 4 potential energy scenarios that could be in the UK’s future
  • they range from a low economic growth scenario with little work done to decarbonise energy, all the way up to a highly ambitious scenario where there is strong customer demand for renewables, strong investment in renewables, and a high uptake of electric vehicles on roads

– opusenergyblog.com

 

  • [natural gas has largely taken the place of coal in the last decade in the UK]
  • at least 5 billion pounds is being invested in a new oil development on the UK Continental Shelf
  • [a] UK offshore wind business has the long term potential to provide low carbon electricity to approximately 5 million homes, [and currently provide electricity to 650,000 homes]

– equinor.com

 

  • the Government wants to close all remaining coal plants by 2025
  • Today the UK has 15 operating nuclear reactors … which are mostly due to retire by 2030 … [but, new nuclear projects are struggling at the moment to get going]
  • [offshore wind in the UK has been successful as a power source, but onshore wind and solar struggle to compete, as well as geothermal or marine power]
  • [some say offshore wind is limited in it’s capacity]
  • Nuclear costs have been increasing, partly due to the novelty of the reactors, greater regulation, and investment risks from the uncertain, and long-term nature of the projects
  • [Overall, some sources are very skeptical of long term renewable and nuclear energy policy and plans because of various factors]

– commonslibrary.parliament.uk

 

Future Of Renewable Energy In The UK

  • The UK has low carbon energy targets up through until 2030 and 2050
  • Some of the best case scenarios see solar grow to 30% of electricity share by 2020 (up from 24.5% in 2016), and solar and wind triple by 2030.
  • Some estimates see wind providing one third of energy by about 2030
  • But, there is still a lot of investment required for this to become reality (in the hundreds of billions of dollars), and variables that will determine to what extent renewables help meet this targets
  • Some sources are very skeptical of long term renewable and nuclear energy policy and plans because of various factors

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

2. https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/our-work/generation/electricity-generation.html

3. https://www.energy-uk.org.uk/files/docs/The_Future_of_Energy/2019/E-UK_FutureofEnergy_SummaryReport2019_23.04.19.pdf

4. http://www.opusenergyblog.com/future-gazing-will-energy-industry-2050/

5. https://www.equinor.com/no/magazine/shaping-the-future-of-energy-in-the-uk.html#gas-and-the-future-of-energy-in-the-uk

6. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/science/energy/mind-the-gap-challenges-for-future-uk-energy-policy/

7. http://theconversation.com/despite-good-progress-100-low-carbon-energy-is-still-a-long-way-off-for-the-uk-114949

Future Of Energy In The United States (Energy Outlook)

Future Of Energy In The United States (Energy Outlook)

This is a short guide outlining what the different forecasts and estimates say the future of the United States’ energy mix might look like (what energy sources provide energy and electricity).

 

Summary – Future Energy Outlook In The US

  • At present, the US gets most of it’s energy from fossil fuels, and most of it’s electricity from natural gas and coal
  • Some outlooks indicate that US electricity generation could be 39% natural gas and 31% renewables in 2050
  • Some outlooks indicate fossil fuels will supply 80% of future energy needs in 2050 for the US
  • Some sources indicate coal energy will decrease, and wind and solar power will grow more than what is reported in the EIA Outlook forecast
  • One study indicates that, based on current technology, renewables could feasibly provide up to 80% of energy needs in the future – but, they admit there needs to be changes to major factors like transmission infrastructure, power grid planning and energy policy (so, it’s more of a best case scenario for clean energy and not as much a prediction)
  • The energy mix of specific regions and states in the US can differ to country wide trends in energy mix (state and local governments can have some say in this)
  • There’s many factors that can ultimately impact the future energy mix of any country, such as macroeconomic growth and market forces, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies … just to name a few. Social, economic, environmental and logistical pros and cons of different energy sources also have to be weighed up
  • In reality, we can look at past energy data, and current trends of energy production and consumption. We can then use modeled projections to predict what might happen with energy in the future based on different assumptions and methodologies
  • But, energy forecasts are not definitive – they are more of an educated estimate/prediction

A few more notes are:

  • % of a type of energy source is different to total numbers. For example, % share of renewables might go up in 30 years, but emissions and air pollutants might not actually reduce if the same amount of fossil fuel in total are still being used (a growing population can have something to do with this for example)
  • When looking at renewables as an energy source, different types of renewables can make up different % shares e.g. solar or hydroelectric might make up more than wind for example
  • Fossil fuels, nuclear and other types of energy sources in the future might start specialising or diverging into sub-types e.g. clean coal technology vs regular coal
  • Electrification of cars (moving away from oil based fuel) and other vehicles could have a significant impact on the overall energy and electricity mix of a country

 

Forecasts & Predictions Of Energy Sources In The United States In The Future

  • Natural gas prices in the future are predicted to be very low
  • By 2050, the electricity generation mix [could be] 39% natural gas, 31% renewables, 12% nuclear and 17% coal
  • Renewables specifically [could be] 48% solar PV, 25% wind, 18% hydroelectric, 4% geothermal and 5% other

– eia.gov

 

  • Renewables and natural gas will be the primary sources of new energy generation from 2050
  • Renewables will remain behind natural gas in terms of energy produced
  • Renewables will surpass nuclear by 2020 and coal by 2025
  • Driven by growth in wind and solar generation, the renewable energy industry will increase from 18% in 2018 to 31% in 2050

– smart-energy.com

 

  • Some sources indicate that by 2050, fossil fuels (crude oil, coal, and natural gas) will continue supplying about 80% of America’s energy for the next 32 years through 2050 [partly because they are low-cost, dependable and reliable energy]
  • Assumptions about macroeconomic growth, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies [can impact future energy mix]
  • Nuclear’s share of total energy will gradually fall from 8.4% this year to slightly above 6% in 2050, while all renewables together (conventional hydroelectric, geothermal, wood and wood waste, biogenic municipal waste, other biomass, wind, photovoltaic, and solar thermal sources) will supply less than 15% of America’s energy a generation from now when today’s teenagers are middle-aged by mid-century

– aei.org

 

  • [some studies show that the] U.S. can generate most of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050
  • It is feasible with currently available technologies
  • In this scenario, the country can meet electricity demand across the country every hour of every day, year-round
  • Variable resources such as wind and solar power can provide up to about half of U.S. electricity, with the remaining 30 percent from other renewable sources
  • This scenario is technically feasible and affordable, but can only be achieved with the right policies and measures in place.
  • It needs better transmission infrastructure, and better grid planning to for better reliability
  • It needs a long-term market for renewable energy, that encourages and supports the integration of renewable energy, puts a price on carbon emissions, and increases funding for research and development

– ucsusa.org

 

  • Domestic Electricity generated by renewables has essentially doubled from 2001 to 2016 in the US
  • Yearly domestic electricity numbers vary from year to year with renewables when annual hydroelectric energy rises and drops
  • Hydro is the largest electricity producer in the US right now
  • Different renewables make up different amounts of the overall renewable energy mix in each country

– wikipedia.org

 

  • … the EIA creates its base case for the Annual Energy Outlook has been criticized for years, in part because the projections don’t take into account future changes to laws and regulations. The EIA even stresses in the report that its base case is not a forecast
  • … the problem with this is that the EIA’s projections are widely used by federal and state officials
  • … some regions of the Midwest are seeing a rapid growth in wind energy [which goes against what the EIA Outlook says]
  • [there are probably] overestimates of coal and natural gas in the EIA’s report
  • The idea of coal holding onto 17 percent of the market in 2050 makes little sense because almost no new coal plants are being built in the United States due to high costs, and the existing ones would be well beyond their useful lives by 2050
  • Instead, many electric utilities have announced plans to shut down their coal-fired power plants sooner than previously expected and to accelerate development of wind and solar power
  • …[it’s possible the] least profitable plants will close down and that some coal plants will remain competitive and keep operating
  • Even if there is a slowdown in new onshore wind farm construction, there is likely to be substantial growth in offshore wind.

– insideclimatenews.org

 

  • A prediction of US energy consumption in 2035 is Oil 32%, Natural Gas 26%, Coal 20%, Renewables 16%, and Nuclear 9%
  • Renewables are the biggest growth compared to 2012 numbers, increasing from 8% in 2012 to 16% in 2035

– e-education.psu.edu

 

Future Of Renewable Energy In The US

  • From the above data…
  • Some of the lowest estimates put renewable energy at an energy share of around 3-4% higher than today by 2050, from 12% to around 16%. This doesn’t take into account law and regulation change by the government that is pro renewables
  • But, some of the higher estimates put renewables at around 30-40% of energy share
  • Some studies indicate that most of the US’ electricity can be supplied by renewables by 2050 based on current technology, but this scenario depends on various factors to become reality

You can read more about renewables in the US in 2018, and some projections of the future at https://www.prescouter.com/2019/04/2018-was-a-record-year-for-renewable-energy-2019-could-be-the-same/

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

2. https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/aeo2019.pdf

3. https://www.smart-energy.com/industry-sectors/distributed-generation/2019-us-energy-outlook-released/

4. http://www.aei.org/publication/chart-of-the-day-despite-all-of-the-hype-and-hope-americas-energy-future-will-be-based-on-fossil-fuels-not-renewables/

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_the_United_States#Future_projections

6. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/smart-energy-solutions/increase-renewables/renewable-energy-80-percent-us-electricity.html

7. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28012019/eia-annual-energy-outlook-coal-renewable-wind-utility-analyst-projections-impact

8. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/egee102/node/1930

9. https://www.prescouter.com/2019/04/2018-was-a-record-year-for-renewable-energy-2019-could-be-the-same/

Pros & Cons Of Fossil Fuel Energy: Now, & Into The Future

Pros & Cons Of Fossil Fuel Energy: Now, & Into The Future

This is a guide outlining the pros and cons of fossil fuel energy (coal, oil and natural gas), both now, and into the future.

 

Summary – Pros & Cons Of Fossil Fuel Energy

  • Fossil fuels provide many economic and also social benefits, and developed countries have built their economies on the back of them
  • But, they are also a finite resource, and they can be devastating environmentally
  • Even ‘clean coal’ technology has not provided feasible results environmentally, considering the cost and unreliability, by many measures
  • The reality is that some countries, such as China, are locked into fossil fuels like coal because of existing investments, existing infrastructure, and a range of other factors
  • Countries like the US began their transition from coal to natural gas and oil a while ago, although coal still produced 27% of electricity there in 2018)
  • What is becoming clearer is that natural gas is usually cleaner than coal from an eco perspective, and nuclear and renewables are cleaner than natural gas. Based on this, eco supporters want to see a push towards these cleaner technologies
  • Climate change is a major issue which could greatly impact the energies of our future – possibly speeding up the transition from fossil fuels to nuclear and renewables
  • Cost (per unit of electricity) and logistical factors (such as infrastructure, technology development and capability, variability, power output/density, and so on) will also play a role
  • Energy for the conventional electricity sector vs transport sector (where conventional cars with oil are competing with hybrid and electric cars) obviously has some different variables and factors to consider

*Note – the mix of energy sources that make up each country will differ. The final set of pros and cons of fossil fuels in each country can also differ because of variables. Each country and even city may need to compose their own set of pros and cons of their energy mix, including and excluding fossil fuels from that mix.

 

Pros Of Fossil Fuels

  • Cheap/Affordable & Accessible – it’s usually a cheap and affordable source of energy and electricity for consumers when considering the price per unit of electricity.
  • Profitable – it’s generally very profitable for companies and suppliers, which encourages more investment and energy (although this can turn into a conflict of interest and encourage corruption too).
  • Provides Jobs & Income – mines, power plants, electrical suppliers and oil and gasoline related companies provide a significant amount of jobs and income for individuals. They can also single handedly support small mining towns.
  • Infrastructure Already Set Up – power grids, gas pipes, and oil supply lines are already set up to deliver and supply fuel and energy where society needs it. It can comparatively be harder and more costly to set up new renewable energy infrastructure in some places.
  • Can Provide Energy Independence – coal provides energy independence in some European countries, where without it, they would be relying on Russian natural gas.
  • Can Meet Baseload, & Provide Backup Or Complimentary Power Source To Renewables – renewable energy, because of it’s variability, can struggle to meet baseload energy requirements at times. Fossil fuel can provide a good backup or complimentary power source in this instance.
  • Fossil Fuels Can Be Used To Make Other Products – for example coke coal is used in steel production, and oil is used for plastic. The plastic in solar and wind equipment is made in part from petroleum. Although, some companies are making bio solar panels – made without petroleum plastic.

 

Cons Of Fossil Fuels

  • Finite Supplies – all fossil fuels have finite supplies as far as we know. This means they will run out or become extremely expensive to mine at some point. Renewables on the other hand are almost infinite.
  • Air Pollution – fossil fuels are responsible for a significant amount of air pollution such as particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Air pollution decreases air quality and is linked to a range of health problems and a higher mortality rate in humans. 
  • Carbon Emissions – fossil fuels are responsible for a significant amount of carbon emissions. This obviously has a bigger bearing on climate change and global warming.
  • Mining & Drilling – mining has many potential negatives, such as land degradation, water pollution, air pollution, contamination, and more. All fossil fuel need to be mined. Drilling for oil can also cause severe environmental issues – both on land and at sea.
  • Fracking – a process used to extract oil and natural gas. Much has been written of the potential issues with fracking, such as the release of methane in the air (a greenhouse gas), water pollution issues, and possibly increasing the risk of earthquakes.
  • Water Use – mining using water, power plants use water in their cooling towers, and water is used for other fossil fuel related activities like oil refinement. Other forms of energy might use far less water – which is a good thing, as fresh water is becoming a scarce and precious resource.
  • Waste – fossil fuel energy produces waste, which can be harmful. If we take coal waste for example – coal ash can contain heavy metals, and is actually one of the main types in the waste stream in countries like Australia.
  • Among The Most Harmful & Dangerous Energy SourcesCoal, oil and gas are among the most harmful fossil fuels in large part because of air pollution, accidents and other factors being responsible for deaths per unit of electricity produced
  • Can Create Energy Dependence On Other Countries – some countries can be, or are heading for dependence on Russia for natural gas.
  • Can Be The Source Of Inequality & Wealth Battles In Some Countries – for example oil. Some families and groups of people have monopolies on fossil fuel ownership, creating massive wealth inequalities.
  • Pricing Can Be Variable – particularly for oil. Some argue that the price for oil can be artificially inflated or reduced for various reasons. This is more of a subjective opinion held by some though.
  • Clean Coal Technology Isn’t Always Cost Effective Or Reliable – CSS in particular has has had various problems becoming a feasible system to reduce carbon dioxide.
  • General Safety Concerns – for example with natural gas pipes, and the possibility of leaks and explosions. There’s also the working conditions of some fossil fuel mines around the world, as well as power plant accidents. Jobs such as working on oil rigs, are among some of the most dangerous in the world.

 

More Resources On The Pros & Cons Of Different Fossil Fuel Energy

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/coal-energy-pros-cons-now-future/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/oil-energy-pros-cons-now-future/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/natural-gas-energy-pros-cons-now-future/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-clean-coal-technology/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-challenges-with-chinas-transition-from-coal-to-natural-gas-renewable-energy/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-energy-source-is-the-most-dangerous-harmful-which-is-safest/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-fossil-fuels-are-left-when-will-we-run-out/